Hard Won Victories

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.”- Romans 7:15 (HCSB)
I think there is a misconception in the church today that if we just pray hard enough over a difficulty/sin in our lives, God will just make it disappear. 
Take an alcoholic for instance. Say the man wants to change his life and finally let go of the bottle. Do we tell him to just pray? Or do we give him steps to change his life?
Throughout the Bible when God tells his followers to NOT do something, he provides something good to DO instead. When he takes something away, he provides that which is good to fill that void. It is supposed to keep us from sinking back into bad behavior.
Paul does a wonderful job of showing these examples, giving us basically an instruction manual that gives us steps to change our lives. For example, character change: Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.–Ephesians 4:31-32 
Nature abhors a vacuum. Due to science class, we’ve heard this thought numerous times. Visualize the jungle. Man comes in and clears it out, readying it for farming. All trees, climbing plants, and grasses are gone. Only bare soil remains. Something holds up the planting, perhaps the man gets sick for a month. When he finally gets back to the place he cleared, already the soil has sprouted with grass, the fast growing vines are creeping out of the surrounding jungle, and even the roots of trees are showing where there once was just rich soil. The jungle is notorious for the speed in which it reclaims that which has been taken away from it. 
The body and the soul also abhors a vacuum. When we attempt to take something away from our lives, something has to take it’s place. We see this when a smoker attempts to stop. There’s a reason why many smokers start to gain weight after they quite, because where once they had a cigarette hanging from their mouth, now they are filling it with food. Trying to fill that empty space where the cigarette once was. Many smokers are now avid gum chewers because they need to keep their mouth busy.
The soul is the same. There’s the saying that everyone has a God shaped hole in their heart, that we are attempting to fill. Some of us fill it by sleeping around, others with trying to make money, still others with gathering things. We all try to fill that hole. Even some believers are still caught in that thought that we are still empty. Instead of recognizing that we have the Holy Spirit, we still feel empty and need to be filled. It is our inherent sin nature that refuses to allow the Spirit to take over our lives.
This is why I think we do great disservice to fellow believers who are struggling with certain changes in their lives when we tell them to just pray about it. God’ll give you the victory.
I do believe God can take away a sin when we just pray for him to help. I’ve met with a few people who say that they had a particularly tenacious sin that they couldn’t seem to shake. Upon just praying (admittedly hard and focused) they were able to step away from the sin and never have it bother them again. Others back  up the claim, saying that the sin changed their loved one’s character and after a retreat they came back totally different. So it is possible.
To the average believer though, it’s okay that we fall and struggle to get through some sins. It is natural. When someone says that ‘all you have to do is pray,’ it makes those of us who are continually fighting to get pass that sin feel maybe like we aren’t truly listening to God, or our faith is weak. 
THIS IS NOT THE CASE! We can be so wrapped up in God, so in love with him, and STILL struggle with sin. Don’t believe me? Go read King David’s story. That man was called a ‘man after God’s heart’ and he sinned continually and horribly. David broke the last six of the ten commandments in a grand way. The difference is that every time he sinned, he realized what he did and came back to God, humbled and broken. 
The thing I take away from this ‘hero’ of the Bible is that he was totally human and God loved him. He continually sinned, but God still loved him. David kept asking for forgiveness, and God always gave it. 
Why do we say God hates us when we slip? Why do we accuse God of not caring when we, ourselves, fall back into our old ways. God is still there, waiting for us to turn back to him. He knows that occasionally we will revert back to our old temptations, and he will use it to teach us his grace. 
Hard won victories have more power than easily given answers. I am more willing to listen to someone’s testimony of how they struggled and failed then finally succeeded, than someone who said that they just changed. The first person speaks more to where I am in life than the person who just easily changes.
Be careful the way you proclaim God and the power of prayer. Prayer is amazing, but it is not the magic genie. Prayer is your communication to God, and sometimes he takes you out of the quicksand of sin without you having to hold on to anything. Other times you must be the one to grab the rope and crawl out while God holds the rope steady. Neither is wrong and neither is the way every single person is going to meet God. 
Victory is yours. You just might have to sweat, bleed and cry a bit before you can truly proclaim it. And, perhaps your faith will be ever stronger because of it. You may also find that each time you find yourself slipping, you are able to stand up that much faster. 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.–1 Corinthians 10:13

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